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Saturday, 22 December 2012

Not the streets tonight, mulled wine and mince pies

A very average week, Tuesday was Short Stop, or the Grace project as I must learn to call it, Only one referral today, but sadly it is the same very young man from Iran whom I have placed before; he is, like many other  young people barely out of childhood, a bit disorganised, and doesn't always make it to the bed that has been found for him. So last night he spent on the streets of Leeds, the kind host today will meet him at the bus stop, let's hope he makes it that far.

Wednesday is the last Coasties of the year, it's not raining, we are on the coast near Cloughton and there will be mulled wine and mince pies at lunch time, so three reasons to be cheerful. Steps are cleaned, ditches dug and blackthorn cut back, the Cleveland Way is more passable than it was yesterday. Two flights of stone steps are now three times the width they were yesterday and many months before that.

ready to heat the mulled wine

After the lunch time treats we all slow down a little, well I do, but the fine weather spurs us on and we carry on until our usual finishing time of 3 o'clock. We are still dry, which is a massive change from the last few weeks. I however am rather muddy, having done a graceful slide into the mud before a ditch was re-dug. I drive home, my usual feeling of smug satisfaction with another job well done. Really this is win win, I get some exercise, the path gets maintained and I get the cost of my petrol covered as well. There is also the good company of the rest of the group. Short Stop can get a little lonely at times, the phone calls all going to voicemail, so Wednesday is a good counterpoint to that.

The next day, in the pouring rain I get the bus to Leeds. It never ceases to amaze me that a modern bus cannot have some sort of ventilation that would prevent all the windows running with condensation the minute it is raining or cold! My friend and I exchange cards and I give her a gift for Christmas, a nun from her church is also visiting as well as another friend and there is a lot of laughter and chatting. It all seems like any other gathering of young women (and me) until the others leave and we talk about the latest stage of her appeal to be allowed to stay in this country. A shadow falls and again I think what as asset she would be to all of us and particularly the community she is part of in Leeds.

So my small society ends another year, it did not occur to me when I started that it would keep going for so long. But the need for the blog is still there, there are enough people viewing it for me to go on writing it, and the number of viewings from different countries is growing.

The next post will be in another year, the days will have started to lengthen and we can dream of certainties, like the daffodils at Farndale, and hopes, like my friend's permission to stay.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Saturday in the warm, Sunday out in the mist

Late on Friday I returned from my short holiday and plunged straight back into my small society. 

But first a tale from north Norway; a young guide in telling us about his country, says how  settled asylum seekers are welcomed with lessons in Norwegian, a job and somewhere to live. He obviously approves of this and has no hesitation in telling a coach full of (mostly) British people how it is here in Norway. How refreshing and sadly unlikely to happen here, even if a guide like him felt the same way, would they say so?

So on Saturday I help a friend with her Fairtrade stall in her village hall, it is a regular monthly event in Huttons Ambo, there are also children's activities, a book swap as well as hot drinks and wonderful cakes. Every body seems to know every one else, even I see some old friends and a lovely sociable afternoon passes very quickly, we even make quite a lot of money! And Father Christmas arrives. As usual all the produce from Fairer World

So, please keep your dog on a lead
Today I was in the mist and the mud on the southern edge of the North York Moors, doing my last Voluntary Ranger patrol of the year. There was no open moorland, but a lovely mixture of field edges, woodland and the ever present river Seven, seen here from a most welcome bridge, I really didn't fancy the ford just downstream!

the river Seven, December mist

At the entrance to a nearby meadow, where people are able to wander down to the river's edge, even though it is not a public right of way, there was a terrible warning about what can go wrong.

I squelched back through leaf mould and deep mud, grateful for my new super wellington boots, warm and waterproof.

I am glad I do a variety of different activities for my small society; I enjoyed the solitude of today's winter ranger patrol,  but the warmth and friendliness in the village hall gave a lovely balance to the weekend back at home.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

My Small Society stays indoors

Coasties was cancelled this week, too much chance of being stuck in the snow on the high brow above Burniston, so the only fresh air I've had is walking to the shops and the bus stop, but I've done quite a bit of that.
the Victorian fair at West
Heslerton School. Our young
assistant helps us work out
the change.

Both last Friday and this Friday I had Fairtrade stalls,, last week at the local council offices and this week at West Heslerton Primary school,, in both places we get a warm welcome and lots of enthusiastic buyers.
goodies at the Council canteen

The school children almost clear us out of nodding animals and jelly beans. Their parents buy tree baubles and paper chains. All Fairly Traded and all from Fairer World in York.

Monday and Tuesday were LASSN days, Monday I caught the bus to Leeds, and then my friend and I walked down to pick up another of her friend's daughters from the local family centre, it was bitterly cold, so together we sorted out her hat, scarf and gloves. I have now met her several times, so I am allowed to help her with her gloves, whilst my friend sorts out her hat. Then I caught the bus into Leeds to meet my gadding friend and so home. Probably nearly £20 of bus fares for nothing with my bus pass, it is a greener way to travel, otherwise I would have taken my car, but can I afford my own travel, some of the time, yes. It also saves Lassn from a travel claim; all volunteers should claim their expenses, otherwise volunteering becomes the prerogative of the rich, you can always donate it back.

On the way home I stop off in York and spend my heating allowance (see 24th November) in Fairer World, they will deliver it to the local food bank for me. Although this is a sort of win win, more fairly traded food helping local York people; it still seems to me to be deeply shocking that one of the richest countries in the world is reducing its citizens to food banks. And remember people can't just go in and take what they want, they have to be referred by their social worker or similar person.

Tuesday was a stressful Short Stop, the first person placed very quickly, then two more homeless asylum seekers and every call going to voicemail. Well into the afternoon I tried a few people again, the most wonderful couple agreed to take them both; then I had a call back from one of the voicemails, would the guest mind a crying baby? we agreed that anything would be better than the freezing streets. So back to the other couple,now just one guest and the other one taking his chances with the baby!

My Small Society is doing what it's done before and taking a few days off to go away on holiday, no good depending on me, or other volunteers, for essential services, that what we should be paying people to do.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Two weeks for my small society to catch up

It seems a long time since Coasties got wet (November 24th), but since then I have taken time off my usual volunteering to be a Granny, so here goes with the catching up.

I have always fancied wearing a high vis vest and directing traffic, my chance came on the Saturday of the Danby Christmas Craft Fair, The car park got very crowded, so I had to check where the spaces were and then wave people into them, at the same time sending 4 wheel drives into the grass field. It was curiously satisfying, helping people and yet telling them where to go! So if anyone near me wants a car director for a charity event let me know!

It's not all earnest being a small society person, before our most recent Fairtrade meeting we all ate together at the pub that kindly lets us have small room for nothing, thank you the Blue Ball in Malton. After the eating and the chat we set to and decided some future events, another Craft Fair in March and a chocolate tasting at the next Fine Food event in Malton,, a pity I will miss this, but I will get it organised and others can help customers taste.

There have been two short stop Tuesdays since I last posted, a lot of anxiety one day when almost all my calls went to voicemail, but after several returned calls everyone was placed, including a young man who has slept on the streets of Bradford for several weeks. Our hosts have their own crises, one who had said yes rang me back, their roof was now leaking, I thanked him for being so thoughtful as to let me know, and he carried on trying to get builders out. I rang Pafras to change the arrangements and all was well.

Another wet Coasties, this time from the non stop rain, not the sea. Once again we were at the alum works, and once again moving stone and old bricks, this time to act as the base for the final flight of steps, they are in a very wet area and this will give a firmer base than earth, a very old form of recycling. After lunch in a cold, but dry barn, we all give in and Coasties finishes early, we are wet through and muddy and cold.

A visit to Leeds to see my friend gives me the opportunity to clarify exactly what back to backs are. Several readers of the blog have queried that surely it can't mean a house which is joined at the back as well as the sides to another house. Well that is what it is, two rows of terraced house, many opening straight off the street, joined at the back! And Leeds, uniquely, still has nearly 20000 occupied. In Birmingham the only ones left are in a museum, However she is lucky and is in a through house, however there is a problem with her heating. The problem turns out to be that the thermostat is next to the cooker, so every time she cooks the heating goes off and the rest of the house gets cold; as she is a believer in cooking cheaper food that takes time to cook, this means a cold house for a lot of the day. The helpful gas man and I shake out heads and tell her that she will need to cook with the back door open. What can I say, except it's a good thing that she's not in a back to back with no through ventilation.

I end with a picture of a pile of hawthorn cuttings, not very exciting, but yesterday we had to abandon the alum works as it really was too wet and muddy, and cut back the hawthorn hedge that was intruding onto the pavement into Ravenscar. I should have photographed the curious cows that came to watch us, but thought of that too late!

all to burn in the spring

As I write this I watch the diverted traffic from the local flooding and despair at the still large group of idiot climate change deniers. I am also debating with myself about what to do with my heating allowance, I shouldn't get it and if I do at least it should be taxed. I have a well insulated house, I am fit and active and I have an index linked public sector pension. But no, only pensioners are to be protected from the appalling welfare cuts by the current Government. Don't mention promises, other promises were made that have gone out of the window. OK here endeth the polemic for the day.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

from a tower block to a through house and Coasties get their feet wet

At the beginning of the week I went to meet both my Leeds' friends, my asylum seeking friend and my 'gadding' friend. My asylum seeking friend has been moved by G4S to her new accommodation, she is delighted as it is still within walking distance of her doctor and her other support networks. I am delighted as, although it is in an area of back to backs, it is a 'through' house, in the Leeds vernacular, it has a back and a front open to the air.

Now those of you not familiar with Leeds may have thought that back to backs had been consigned to the museum or the dustbin of housing history, oh no, in Leeds there are still almost 20000 back to backs and I haven't added an extra zero. I have tried to give you a link to various reports, but have failed, but if you google back to backs in Leeds you can see it all for yourselves. Even tower blocks give the residents a small outside balcony but many back to backs are directly onto the pavement, so no private outside space back or front. The numbers are so high because, when building new ones was finally banned early in the 20th century, Leeds found a loophole in the law and carried on well into the 1930's. We are supposed to be one of the richest countries in the world and yet people are still living in homes that were condemned over 100 years ago.

My friend and I drink tea and she tells me how, when she has got the inside clean and sorted, it looks spotless to me, she is going to start on the small plot outside. My gadding friend and I catch up and then I get the bus home, a most satisfactory day all round. The move that potentially could have been so disastrous has turned out to be fine, in part down to the lovely people from the local housing group, who actually did the practical work of moving her and her few, but precious possessions; some of which she has restored to good use after finding them dumped in alley ways. For new readers, the contract to house asylum seekers is now with G4S, who cannot use the properties that were previously used, so at unnecessary expense everyone has to be moved. They is turn subcontract the work to another group. Confused, you should be!

not easy to see, but in the middle
 of the picture, a large
piece of plastic sheet.
Wednesday is a lovely sunny day, Coasties,, continues to hack out the path for the plebs (see October 21st). It is mostly the usual blackthorn, but some of it is also cunningly woven through with honeysuckle. However the lovely views over Runswick Bay,as well as the unseasonably warm weather keep us cheerful. It's a pity though that even here sheets of plastic are buried in the ground.

Runswick bay in the sunshine

Eventually we break through to a field; however we have worked for too long. Both the time and the height of the high tide have been ignored, some of us opt for wet feet and more, the others struggle up a muddy cliff.

a colleague gives me a helping hand with the last bit

Thanks to Tristan for this picture of me above my knees in the sea. I don't usually paddle in my clothes, but this seemed the best option this time.

Luckily I have other footwear in the car, the drive home is still rather damp.

Friday, 9 November 2012

small society stuff continues

Sunday I did a voluntary ranger patrol in one of my favourite places, the Cleveland Way between Ravenscar and Hayburn Wyke. There was still a frost on north facing areas, but the sun shone and it was a glorious yomp south along the coast. However today was not just for checking steps, gates and general path maintenance, although I did plenty of that, today was also my sloe picking day. At first I thought that the blackthorn was getting revenge for all my cutting back over the last year, but patience was rewarded and I picked just over a kilogramme in about half an hour.
a rustic fence to protect us
from the crumbling cliff edge

the sloes in their shiny glory

I was pleased to see this fence, the cliffs are crumbling here and the drop to the sea is sheer and a long way. It also looks a lot better than other sections further north.

Just after a picnic lunch on the beach I met a couple who thought that they could get a bus back to Scarborough from Ravenscar, they hadn't checked the timetable and were shocked to discover that there was no such bus on a Sunday. They then wanted advice on an alternative way to walk back, however they  had no map! I explained to them about the disused railway line, at least you can't get lost on that, and set them on their way! I am delighted that other people want to share this lovely coast line, but please check the buses and carry a map.

Tuesday was the Grace project,; I had an early call from PAFRAS,, both case workers were going on a course, and there were four people to place. However after lots of voicemail messages and two or three lovely chats with people I have never met, but are becoming good phone friends, everyone is placed. Two of them are the very young people I had to place last week.

All week I was checking the statistics for my spoiled ballot blog, it had also gone on the Northerner, and was attracting masses of comments. However as the title of this post says, life continues.

it was a wall by 3 o'clock!

almost finished

Wednesday was back to Coasties, once again as one of my colleagues pointed out the sun shone on the righteous. This was a new one for me, a lime kiln being restored and a stone wall to be rebuilt, I have repaired a dry stone wall before, but not right from the base. Once almost every farm had its own lime kiln, to make lime for the fields, now it comes in bags; but this farmer is keen to restore his, not to use, but as a local piece of history. The wall was hard work, not enough large stones with flattish faces, a bit of cheating went on, with smaller bits wedging where necessary. We found enough stones with sort of rounded tops to cap it off; not the best wall on the North York Moors, but a lot better than it was.

Yesterday my friend in Leeds finally got the news about her move, it would be 9.30 this morning and no one knew where to! However friends rallied round and when the G4S staff arrived her stuff was packed and she was as ready as possible. The G4S people on the ground were lovely, as is usually the case, it is the people at the top, earning most, who are the problem. She has been moved into an old terraced house, hard to let, but she is pleased that at last the move has happened. I shall go over on Monday and see it for myself, however she and a friend have already scrubbed it to their very high standards. We had a long chat this evening on the phone and she seemed more relaxed than for some time.

I checked the statistics again, more than three times as many views as any other post. Comments also on my Facebook pasting.

The original post only had the picture of my ballot paper, here is the comment that I did for the Northerner.

Why have I done this, good question, firstly I am a rather impulsive person, act first, then think, and this seemed to me the best thing to do on first thought. However second and subsequent thoughts. I have never and could never vote for a Conservative, their entire value system is so different to mine; I have voted Labour, but their record in Government on penal reform and the criminal justice system was not very liberal! I have always voted, but this time neither of them was ‘least worst’, so this a public gesture on my part, small acorns………..Why so few candidates? Well a £5000 deposit is a bit of a turn off, not to mention the general public apathy and lack of understanding of what it’s all about?

a ps to Wednesday. I spend a lovely hour with my local Brownie group, talking to them about Fairtrade and showing them just a few of the Fairtrade foods that we can buy in our local supermarkets. Also on the Fairtrade front, we took almost as much  at the shop last weekend as we did last year, with people having to tighten their belts this is good news.

Monday, 5 November 2012

back to normal, if only I knew what that was!

A busy, busy week, LASSN, the National Park and a proper Fairtrade shop in Malton.

Tuesday and Thursday were LASSN,, now the new link works, I've tested it! Grace project first, two very young people, one of 18, the other 19; I can only imagine what drives young people from the only home and family (if they have one) they've known to a strange country, where they are homeless and penniless. I find places for them to stay after several phone calls, it is half term and lots of people away, one lucky family are walking in sunshine in the Brecon Beacons.

Wednesday, despite the forecast, is dry, but very windy all day. Coasties, are at the Alum works in Ravenscar, we are continuing work on the Cleveland Way alternative, which should open next spring and give direct access to the old Alum works. This is the best link I can find. Today we are clearing tons and tons of stone from collapsed sections of the Alum works and their associated buildings (housing for the workers, a pigsty etc.). Many years ago they were dumped where the new path is going to go, so now they have to be moved again! Some are fairly small, they go in wheel barrows, some are huge and have to be moved in a very small caterpillar wheeled truck.

we did these by lunch time
I wonder what this was, part of a water trough?

By about 2 o'clock we have run out of space to move the stones to. Many of us have also run out of energy, so we down tools an hour earlier than usual and pile into the mini bus back up the hill. We debate the merits of a hot shower versus a bath to iron away the aches, I go for the shower, on power mode.

thank you to the Friends , Malton
Thursday evening several of us work until after 11pm to set up the two day branch of Fairer World in the Friends Meeting House in Malton. All the goods are Fairly Traded, giving a social premium to the communities producing the goods, as well as a fair price for the things we are selling.

The shop is an annual event, the first Friday and Saturday on November. Both mornings two of us tie green arrows advertising the shop round various lamposts in the town centre, but most people come by word of mouth and because they know we will be there. There is a steady flow of people all day, buying cards and presents for Christmas, as well as stocking up on the usual tea, coffee, and chocolate, as well dried fruit and sugar for baking.(Thank you TV shows).
Craft items, it's not just food you see; you can
 buy these at Fairer World in Gillygate, York.

We seem to do as well as most years, there is certainly less to pack up on Saturday evening. I have two more small stalls before the end of the year. One at the local council offices and another in a village primary school. All good news to those producers in developing countries, trade not aid is what they want.

Watch this space.

Sunday I was yomping along the Cleveland Way, but more of that next time.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

a political one off - back to normal tomorrow!

first time I've spoilt a ballot paper, but I've always voted and this time this was the only option

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Short Stop changes name and two sessions in the jungle

Tuesday was what used to be Short Stop and is now called the Grace project. The Grace project is the amalgamation of two linked schemes, Short Stop and Long Stop, both offering emergency accommodation for homeless asylum seekers, one for one night only, the other for longer. Now LASSN has decided to merge the two schemes under one name the Grace project. Grace was an early user of short Stop many years ago; now, settled in Leeds, she has become a Trustee of LASSN and an enthusiastic advocate of both short Stop and Long Stop. Just one person to be placed this week, my first call is to one of our regular hosts, she is unwell, but tells me that if I can find nobody else she can help. It is with some relief, she has the awful cough and cold I have just got over, that my next call is answered with a cheery 'of course'; I phone PAFRAS back and that is all for the day. The nights are becoming colder and longer so the Grace project becomes more and more vital.

this bit's already been done
Wednesday dawned in gloom and pouring rain, however the forecast promised sun later, so on with the water proofs and off to Runswick Bay. Coasties were continuing to carve a path, which only seems to exist on the map, through bracken, bramble and our old friend blackthorn. It had been started with steps many months ago, more steps will be needed on this bit, but today it is too wet. However by 11o'clock the rain has stopped and by midday the sun and the midges are out.
the bracken jungle,
easier than the blackthorn!

Some of my colleagues become so enthusiastic that the path gets wider and wider and more and more blackthorn has to be somehow 'lost' in what remains. I have a minor rebellion and block their way, they move onward and upward, more to be lost, but at least the path gets longer rather than wider!

"What is the point of blackthorn?" one of us wonders, "well sloe gin" I point out, but we all agree although very good, not an essential for life. So, what is the point of blackthorn?

Now, see here on the right is a lovely path, it's almost parallel to where we are cutting, dragging and throwing. BUT it is on private land, this area of the National Park is not Open Access and we ordinary mortals may only walk on the public rights of way. It's a path for game shooters, I eat game and so I don't complain about the people who shoot, but the the revolutionary in me wonders why we can't all use the same path. There is some muttering about us plebs not using the path! Very topical at the moment, the rights of plebs. When I was younger I thought that one day the revolution would come, now older and greyer I know better.

Sunday was more jungle cutting, this time of nettles and burdock to find trees planted last year in Malton's best kept secret, the Castle Gardens. Some trees had been discovered a few months ago, now more were found today.
Malton's jungle in the mist
Here's one I found

If the small society exists truly it does here, a few people, over many years, have made this the magical place it is now. We have come to it only recently and now hope to help more. The wet summer has contributed to the need for a massive cut back, there are still more young trees to be found and nurtured into more growth.

Last but not least, my good friends at Fairer World shop in York have just launched the first page of their website, it is a work in progress, but after some time here it is,

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Happy Birthday LASSN

Yesterday was LASSN's 10th birthday. and they've got a new website to celebrate. First was the boring bit, the AGM, but necessary for legal reasons. I am so glad that all this is now behind me; I did over 20 years of committee meetings: Council, School Governors, Charities. I'm glad I did, as I like to think that some of them made a difference, but now enough is enough and I am very happy to be a volunteer and nothing more. We heard from someone who had been in at the very beginning of LASSN, over 10 years ago, before the charity itself was officially launched. She made the point that we all hope not to be here in another 10 years, but we fear that the need will be just as great as it is now. Conflict around the world does not lessen just because the EU has been given a peace prize.

Then the party, lovely food, cooked by a local couple who were born in East Africa and have lived in Leeds for many decades. It was good to share experiences, both happy and sad, with other volunteers, some were short stop hosts, some English at home tutors and others befrienders. We also talked of other things, holidays, I had just returned from another train trip across Europe, this time to Porto, and dogs, other people's, I don't have one, (regular readers might have guessed this!)

Earlier in the day I had visited my friend, still waiting to hear when and where she will be moved to; no news may be good news, but can also be very stress making, for her at present it is the latter.

A friend from WAST, women asylum seekers together, was there. We reminisced about a lovely holiday they had all had in the Lakes, in a guest house owned by the local Society of Friends , everything had been paid for by the Friends, including a boat trip on Derwent Water. By coincidence I had stayed there, as a paying guest, whilst I was doing the Coast to Coast walk two years ago. I remembered the food being very good and they agreed with me. It was lovely to relax and talk about ordinary things, far removed from the current stresses.

Back to Coasties next week, continuing some work near Runswick Bay that we started some months ago on the Cleveland Way. there is now a Facebook page for the Cleveland Way, I'm not sure if this link will work if you're not signed up to FB, but if it does you might see some familiar pics.

I'm now back to my Small Society for some months, before I take off once more on my travels.

Monday, 24 September 2012

from brilliant sunshine to pouring rain

Last Tuesday there was just one short stop referral, the fourth and last call was successful, but more exciting for me (how sad am I?) was that the host was a regular reader of the blog and said how much he enjoyed it. LASSN, are now involved in both Short Stop and a new project Long Stop, more asylum seekers are needing longer stays and this new project will give both them and hosts a greater degree of certainty. For more details please click on the link.

the view as we work, lucky us
Wednesday was a stunningly beautiful day, Coasties,, were clearing a section of the Cleveland Way just south of Scarborough. Long grass, nettles, briars and overhanging gorse and willow were all making this section of the National Trail rather too narrow. However one of my tasks was rather dispiriting, clearing masses of rubbish from around a bench, including the mesh from several portable barbecues, you can imagine what they do to small mammals and birds which get their legs caught in them. The stupid people who used them obviously don't care at all, there are litter bins just a five minute walk away!
all around the bench
The other ongoing rubbish issue is my usual moan at the idiocy of the thoughtless dog owners (note to friends and relations - not you); the plastic bag in the hedge will NOT degrade, the dog poo would. Yes I know there are degradable bags, but these were not those.

Saturday the members of our local Fairtrade group,, were up bright and early for our Craft Fair, a mix of Fairtrade and local craft stalls. Quite a success, we might repeat but possibly in a more central venue. Several of the local craft people were keen to come again and seemed to like the mix of stalls we had.
crafts from our friends at Fairer World in York
Every year we try something different, last year was a Clothes Show, this year the Craft Fair.

Sunday I was up on the moors above Rosedale, all the paths were clear, stiles and gates in excellent order, so I had a good walk and enjoyed the last of the sunshine. Lots of grouse and pheasant around and a few skylarks still singing high above. Then I came across this in a farm yard, not your usual farmyard item!

I could have done with this today (JOKE JOKE). I went to Leeds to see my friend, she still hasn't heard anything about her new accommodation, which is supposed to be by this Friday. I spent ages on the phone to the UK Border Agency and G4S (of Olympic infamy), both of them saying nothing to do with us, try the other one! The UKBA have given the contract to house asylum seekers to G4S whose incompetence seems to stretch way beyond the Olympics. Thus my need for the cannon.

The last straw was the bus on the way home, apparently no ventilation or heating, so condensation dripping down the windows onto anyone sitting by the window, me as the bus was full for much of the way home.

Never mind, at least I have a warm, dry house to come home to, and a feeling of a week mostly doing somethings towards my small society, and seeing old friends in between, which meant good food, chat and wine.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The tools of my trade, phone on Tuesday, sickle and shears today, and some bad news

Yesterday there were four short stop referrals! Luckily three of them were able to go back to Monday's hosts and the last was also found a room for the night very quickly. Lovely people prepared to offer shelter, often for night after night. I am happy to do the phoning, but don't know how easy I would find taking a stranger into my home. Once again PAFRAS the referring agency.

My asylum seeking friend has had good and bad news in the last week. She passed her Level 2 in Health and Social care with flying colours, distinctions in all eight sections of the course and has been offered a place to study for Level 3. However the Home Office, after many, many months has decided that she may not stay in this country. After everything she has been through and all her hard work over the last two years, not to mention what she is already bringing to our society and how much more she could bring...............  All her friends are desperately hoping that she will be able to appeal. Watch this space, I may need help. LASSN and Solace are amongst the organisations supporting her.

Today I tried to put all that behind me and helped to clear a path in the shadow, literally, of the Boulby potash mine. Potash is in the news at present as plans for another mine near Whitby have just been announced. It seems that only agricultural type sheds will actually be in the National Park, modern sheds like this are fairly hideous, but if they were really agricultural they wouldn't need planning permission at all! The sun is shining and the view in front of us is of a lovely woodland and a field of sheep, behind us the bulk of the mine buildings, it all seems rather incongruous. New steps are put in and old ones cleaned up and repaired, but there is still much to do. I use an old fashioned sickle and rather blunt shears to clear a way through the mini jungle that is now the path.


Sunday, 2 September 2012

All sorts in my small society

In my last post I completely forget to mention how pleased I was to see the Fairtrade logo at all the Olympic venues we went to, all the tea, coffee and drinking chocolate was Fairtrade, and here is a picture to prove it.

Some of the sponsorship of the Olympics and the Paralympics may have left a sour taste in the mouth, DOW and ATOS spring to mind, but the flavour and background to the hot drinks at least left a very good taste.

On the subject of Fairtrade I spent a fruitful few hours last week taking posters for our Fairtrade and local craft fair round various shops around my home.

Earlier this week I once again had just one referral for a 'short stop' bed, a young man of only 18, PAFRAS, the referring agency wondered if I could possibly find somewhere for more than one night. The household I contacted were sure that would be possible, so once again I signed off with a lighter heart than I had started the day with.

Wednesday was Coasties in the rain; but nothing daunted we put on our waterproofs, picked up our tools and set off to cut back overhanging foliage on the Cleveland Way at Stoupe Beck. The damp and now the slightly warmer weather has made sheltered areas like this almost tropical in the speedy growth of the green stuff. I had to put up with some banter about last week's post on the raking, but no mention of raking this week I noticed, although we were once again based at the alum works at Ravenscar.            
 Later in the afternoon I went back to the alum works to help move shale from a local quarry onto the new steps on the Cleveland Way diversion, a messy task in the rain. The new board walk across the stream looks very good, the steps will too when they are all finished.

I suggest that when all the work is done we should have a champagne opening of the new diversion, there is a comment that if I provide the champagne................

Today we went to Howsham Mill for a willow weaving workshop, there have been several of these traditional workshops over the summer, showcasing both the work happening at the Mill and various local crafts people. The Mill itself is surrounded by scaffolding, the work on the restoration is well under way, it will be a wonderful local resource, especially showing off hydro power, when it is finished.
Here are the chickens we made, they are now sitting in our garden, confusing the blackbirds and the doves. Ok, so they don't look like chickens, but we are ridiculously proud of them, and they add to the jollity of life. After they are finished we chat to some walkers about the Archimedes screw that not only supplies power to the mill, but also a healthy income from the National Grid to the Trust that supports the Mill.

You may ask what all these bits have to do with my small society. Well it's my small society and I can decide, but what gives me pleasure and satisfaction is the variety of activities, none of which cause harm and some, I hope, are useful and even doing good to someone, somewhere.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

no more raking, I am not in a pressed gang!

The title refers to Wednesday, so you will have to wait! At the beginning of the week the Malton and Norton Fairtrade group had their final planning meeting for our craft fair. We are planning to showcase both local and Fairtrade crafts; the usual worries, would we have enough or too many stalls, publicity and refreshments. I then spent some frustrating hours trying to upload details to the Guardian northerner notice website, however I managed eventually,, you then click on the funny notice word next to the map. If this doesn't work it's on September 22nd at the Memorial Hall in Old Malton, free entry 10 til 4.

Tuesday was another quick short stop day, one referral only, I rang one of the regulars, they always answer their phone and almost always say yes. I chat to the person in the referring agency about the Olympics, and the tears we had shed as athletes showed their emotions on the podiums.   was the referring agency this week.

Wednesday was Coasties,, and this is the subject of the title. Quite a big group today and the area to be worked in is steep and narrow, there is a board walk to be laid and lots of steps. Three of us realise that too many cooks will spoil the broth, or least fall over themselves, so we ask if there is something else we can do. So we find ourselves raking what would be hay if it was longer and drier, but is actually clumps of dank, damp grass on a sloping field. At least the sun is, mostly, shining and we are surrounded by stunning views; but it is back breaking and frustrating work, much of the cut stuff drags up roots when we rake, and if the grass goes on growing it will all to be done again soon. Can you see the wooden rake in the dead grass?

Next week we will be back, as the diversion of the Cleveland Way through the National Trust's alum works,, still has many weeks' work to be done; more steps, gates and another section to be cut through dense undergrowth. However, the three of us make it abundantly clear that next week we will not be raking; if there is not room for all of us in the steep little valley, there is, apparently, much cutting back to be done on the trail between Ravenscar and Stoup Brow. We go there, willingly, but not in the cut grass.
I am usually happy to do what ever is necessary to keep the paths open, the alum works in good order and the park generally accessible, but there comes a time when I realise that I am a volunteer, not a member of a pressed gang!

Thursday, 16 August 2012

back to normal

To my amazement I did finally work out a lot of what had been there before the Olympic Park, not helped by the park map which was not orientated with north at the top! It was as good as everyone else has already told you, but as a volunteer myself I cannot praise too highly the Games Makers as they were called. How proud we were that one of them was one of my step daughters. Next year we hope to go back and see what the Park looks like one year on. My worst fears about the obliteration of all that was good about the Bow Back Waters were confounded; wonderful wetland areas, wild flower meadows and masses of trees.

So on Tuesday it was Short Stop, only one referral, but over ten phone calls, mostly to voicemail, before I managed to place a young man from the Congo. As so often during Short Stop I was reminded of some of my pupils in London, several from the Congo, their French not like mine, to their amusement, with dreadful tales of fighting. I rang back to St George's Crypt and gave them the good news, once again the kindness of strangers.

LASSN coordinate the Short Stop programme and they are currently looking for a volunteer to help with their media work, this is what it's all about:-

Fed up with poor, inflammatory representation of asylum seekers and refugees in the press? Have a passion for writing, broadcasting and the media in general? We're looking to recruit a new volunteer project co-ordinator. If you are interested please go to

Wednesday was Coasties, this was the scene that met our eyes after we had walked, laden with tools and our backpacks, about half a mile downhill from the mini bus.


Trail bikers have made these ruts in what was a lovely holloway through the woods. It is hot and humid and there are bitey things, but the job needs doing; so we set to with mattocks and spades and gradually mange to eliminate the worst of the ruts. Meanwhile some of our colleagues have, we think, the easier task; they are designing and building a deterrent and here it is.
Quite difficult for a trail bike
    After lunch the diggers carry on with the task of filling in the ruts, the ground seems to be much harder now and we mutter darkly about what we might do to these motorised vandals. There are places where can they can ride their bikes legitimately, but guess what, they would have to pay.

Eventually I text the fence makers for assistance, two of them join us and agree how hard it is. After a while we all decide to pack up early, it is a long steep way back up to the mini bus; the task is not finished, but there is another day. And below is a bit of the section that we levelled, not perfect, but much better now for walkers.

We are constantly being reminded how much more we should exercise, what an overweight nation we are becoming and how much it will all cost the health service. Well walking is a free form of exercise, it doesn't need much equipment and all you need is a place to walk, but not one that has been despoiled by motor bikes!

Saturday, 28 July 2012

off to the Olympics

We were incredibly lucky and got tickets for various Olympic events, spread over the two weeks. So we are off to Bedford and London and the Lea Valley Park, early starts, late nights and, we hope, lots of excitement.

It will be a bit of a trip down memory lane as I used to cycle round the curious world of the Bow Back Waters when I lived in Stratford. Yes, parts of it were smelly, polluted and a bit scary, but other bits had a idiosyncratic beauty, like the time I saw a swan fight a heron for a nesting site. Now it is all part of the Olympic Park, will I recognise it, I don't think so!

Loved the opening ceremony, especially the parts celebrating the NHS and when Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty (of which I am a member) helped to carry in the flag. Another flag bearer was that brave conductor Daniel Barenboim, of the Divan Orchestra,, bringing together young musicians across the Middle East's many divisons.

Friday, 20 July 2012

my small society going well, I can do smug!

Tuesday I was on Short Stop standby, no calls at all until after lunch; then 3 on top of each other, all placed very quickly, no voicemails at all, all the hosts picked up immediately. What was really nice was that two of them had been with the same hosts the previous night, and both sides, hosts and guests, were delighted. Then quite late in the afternoon the fourth, I could not believe my luck, and hers, when once again the previous night's host said that they would be delighted to have her again. Pafras,, St George's Crypt, and the Refugee Council were the referring agencies today and the whole scheme is organised by my good friends in LASSN, I clocked off at the end of the afternoon and went off to the theatre in Scarborough a happy coordinator.

the bottom of the deep gully
Thursday was an off shoot of Coasties, a Cleveland Way task force, I have blogged before about the old alum works at Ravenscar, well, so that more people can get to see these fascinating industrial remains, the Cleveland Way is being diverted through and around them. The only problem is that there are two gullies, one quite deep, two streams, one running in a very boggy area, and masses of Yorkshire jungle (bracken, nettles, willow, blackthorn, hawthorn, bramble to name but a few) to be cleared before the diversion can be used. So we set to; to help we had two strimmers and a chain saw as well as the usual loppers, saws and shears. I am not trained for power tools, not do I want to be, so at first it was sawing and lopping, ankle deep in the water, then after lunch dragging the cut stuff out of sight and out of mind.

the Yorkshire jungle

However, by just before 3pm, when we usually call a halt, both gullies had been conquered. Now boards walks, steps, gates and new signing will be put in and then, we hope, a ceremonial opening of the new section of path.
the start of the new section

fairtrade crafts and food
Friday I was in the canteen of Ryedale House, our local council, with our twice yearly Fairtrade stall,; even though staff numbers have been reduced we do as well as last year. Fortified by coffee and scones by the canteen staff we have an enjoyable and productive morning.
So, yes, I do feel rather pleased with my small society, some vulnerable people helped, an interesting area will be opened up to more visitors and producers in third world countries given a fair price for their labour. I think I even got a bit fitter doing all that sawing, lopping and dragging.

Friday, 13 July 2012

a task completed

A couple of weeks ago I posted about work Coasties had been doing on the Rail Trail in the Esk Valley to make a footpath more suitable for wheelchair users, well this week we went back and completed the section that had been started earlier this summer, This week I was in charge of the measuring and marking out of the edge of the path, with two new helpers I worried that I might not get it as accurate as it had been a fortnight ago, but at the end it looked fine, as you can see below.
just the warning sign to remove
rolling the cinders to the final surface

Appropriately, as this was once the track of the original Esk Valley railway, we are using old cinders from the current railway, to surface the path, reuse before re-cycling. Amazingly there is hardly any rain, and when the sun comes out after lunch, by which time I am raking the cinders into place, it is actually hot.

By the bridge over the Murk Esk there are the remains of an art installation, sadly vandals have removed all the other slate roundels, the date on the bridge is only 11 years ago.                
can you see the carvings of  the old
industry in the valley?

the river in flow, see how brown
 it is after all the rain
Lots of walkers go past, including a school party; we explain what we are doing, it is rather noisy, but every one appreciates why the noise is necessary and that a path suitable for all users is a very good idea.
Later in the week I see the river mouth in Whitby, there is a brown plume out to sea as the river continues to sweep the peat from the moors out to sea.